talking about the future

 

1. When we know about the future we normally use the present tense.

  • We use the present simple for something scheduled or arranged:

We have a lesson next Monday.
The train arrives at 6.30 in the morning.
The holidays start next week.
It is my birthday tomorrow.

  • We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements:

I’m playing football tomorrow.
They are coming to see us tomorrow.
We’re having a party at Christmas.

2. We use will to talk about the future:

  • When we make predictions:

It will be a nice day tomorrow.
I think Brazil will win the World Cup.
I’m sure you will enjoy the film.

  • To mean want to or be willing to:

I hope you will come to my party.
George says he will help us.

  • To make offers and promises:

I'll see you tomorrow.
We'll send you an email.

  • To talk about offers and promises:

Tim will be at the meeting.
Mary will help with the cooking.

3. We use (be) going to:

  • To talk about plans and intentions:

I’m going to drive to work today.
They are going to move to Manchester.

  • When we can see that something is likely to happen:

Be careful! You are going to fall.
Look at those black clouds. I think it’s going to rain.


4. We often use verbs like would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect to talk about the future:

What are you going to do next year? I’d like to go to University.
We plan to go to France for our holidays.
George wants to buy a new car.

5. We use modals may, might, and could when we are not sure about the future:

I might stay at home tonight, or I might go to the cinema.
We could see Mary at the meeting. She sometimes goes.

6. We can use should if we think something is likely to happen:

We should be home in time for tea.
The game should be over by eight o’clock.

7. Clauses with time words:

In clauses with time words like when, after, and until we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

I’ll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

8. Clauses with if:

In clauses with if we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

We won’t be able to go out if it rains.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.

WARNING: We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

I’ll come home when I will finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain rains.

But we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

9. We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous or going to for emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions:

They’ll be coming to see us next week.
I will be driving to work tomorrow.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

Dear Sir

Thank you for creating this amazing website. It has helped me many times!

Unfortunately I have a problem where this great article doesn´t help much.

Both present continuous and future continuous can be used to talk about our future plans/planned events. In many textbooks or even on the internet many sources consider them to be very similar and according to those books they can be used interchangeably. However I have made a few mistakes recently as I used present continuous in sentences where future continuous was much better if not the only one correct option.

Since then I have thought there must be a rule or something which will help me, non- native speaker, to learn how to distinguish these two tenses used for future plans. I haven´t found any, though.

Here are the sentences:

- Federer is keen to find out who will be joining him at World Tour Finals.

- I will be using it myself until about 4:00.

- In a very short time we will be taking off.

- Natalie will be arriving at the bus station around 5:00.

In the first two sentences present continuous wouldn´t be correct. To be quite honest I don´t remember whether or not it is the same case with the last two examples. In those two last examples I may have been told that present continuous is possible but doesn´t fit as well as future continuous does.

Would you be so kind and help me with this phenomena? I would really appreciate that!

Thank you very much.

Dominik

Hello Dominik9966,

In all of those sentences it is possible to use both the present continuous and the future continuous. As it says on the page:

We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous or going to for emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,
Can you please tell me which sentence is right from the following two sentences :

1. Mr. X will retire on 31 May.
2. Mr. X retires on 31 May.

Hello abhinavchauhan1,

It depends on how view it. If your perspective is that of a schedule, then 2 is more likely. If you're speaking more generally, 1 is more likely.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello
"Iwill come" means I am determined to come, but how can we use the same sentence for simple future.... ok right, if we the same sentence for future , what would be the sentence for determinarion of the speaker.

Sir,I have a confusion. George would have gone/would go on a trip to Chicago if he had time. What is the correct option? would have gone or would go?? please reply and explain

Hello Pavlusa,

You can find an explanation of conditionals on our Conditionals 1 and Conditionals 2 pages, which I think will answer your question. Hint: form a second conditional sentence here. If you're still not sure after reading those pages, please feel free to ask us again on one of them.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello LearnEnglish Team,

I need your help about something:
"We have a lesson next Monday" - Why don't we use present continuous since we are talking about people (we)?

I am confused because I learned to use present continuous to refer people and present simple to refer to timetable/programme etc...

Thank you for your time.

Hello drigarcia,

It sounds like you might be applying a rule that isn't always correct. The present simple is used to speak about timetabled events in the future, as in the sentence about a lesson on Monday. It doesn't matter whether people or objects are being spoken about. The same is true of the present continuous, i.e. it can be used to speak about people and objects, and is used for plans.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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